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Orca: mammalfascinating marine and alpha predator of all oceans and seas of the globe. Let's see what its characteristics are, where it lives, what it eats and where to see an orca.
L'killer whaleis a charmingmammalmarino, belongs to the same family of dolphins (Dolphins, Odontocetes Cetaceans) and it's not a fish! The orca is a cetacean.
Killer whales are cetaceans
THEcetaceansI am an infraorder ofmarine mammalswhich have a fusiform body similar to that offishes, the body ensures excellent hydrodynamics. However, cetaceans do not have gills but are equipped with lung respiration, which is why they often emerge from the water in order to take in oxygen. THEcetaceansthey are the dolphins, the whales, the killer whales and the beluga.
Orca: marine mammal
Like allmammals, even the orca gives birth. The orca's "pregnancy" lasts a long time! After about a year and a half of gestation, the female gives birth to only one young. Calving takes place in shallow waters. After giving birth, this incredible marine mammal immediately brings the baby born to his relatives. Already, killer whales live in groups, creating real communities.
L'orca is a mammal with undoubted intelligence, so much so as to implement real social behaviors. Each killer whale community develops detailsverses of communicationand parental care is also peculiar. Not always the "Pope"she can distinguish her young, so the males end up taking care of all the young in their group as if they were their own children.
Each female faces an interval between one birth and another, this pause varies from 3 to 8 years. The reason for this long interval? The orca needs time because parental care is prolonged.
The female reaches sexual maturity at 10 years, the male must wait 16 years to reproduce.
The offspring of the killer whales remain in their group until adulthood, at which point the mothers make sure they have an offspring by helping their children to find a partner for reproduction.
What do they eat?
TheorcasI'mmammalsstrongly social. Hunting takes place in groups and the prey depends on the habitat they colonize. Some communities feed mainly on fish, while other killer whales feed mainly on marine mammalssuch as seals, sea lions or even whales.
The most surprising prey is the shark. Killer whales feed on different species of shark, among them also the oneWhite shark. For a long time the white shark was believed to be thesuper predator of the oceanshowever, recent observations have highlighted the fragility of this predator.
Even though the white shark has an incredibly developed strength and senses, the killer whales, acting in packs, manage to gain the upper hand. For all the details on the predation of the white shark by the killer whale, the following information is available:white shark vs killer whale.
Where to see the orcas?
The whale can be observed in its natural habitat through the activity ofwhale watch. Captive killer whales are not uncommon, however we do not encourage such tourism.
The orca, unlike the dolphin, is a very large animal, with enormous needs! a 2018 estimate reported the presence of 60 orcas in captivity. Here are some of the structures that keep the orca in captivity:
- Sea World California
- Orlando Sea World - Florida
- Sea World Texas
- Miami Seaquarium
- Acuario Mundo Marino, Buenos Aires
- Loro Parque, Tenerife
In the photo below an orca during one of the SeaWorld shows in Orlando. The orca in question was famous for being responsible for the deaths of three people, the orca's name was Tilikumand she died in 2017. Life in captivity is not suitable for the orca.
In captivity there is a significant atrophy of the dorsal fin (also visible in the photo below). in practice the dorsal fin loses its muscular rigidity due to the lack of exercise of the dorsal muscles that keep the fin erect. The reason? Captive killer whales live in very confined spaces where they can barely dive. The causal fin also undergoes notable changes, an experienced eye may notice a completely unnatural bending of the rear edge.
In nature there have never been any attacks by marine mammals on humans. In captivity, however, attacks of this type are quite frequent.
Killer Whale: Attacks targeting humans
In nature, attacks are rare and minor, the last one dates back to 2005, when, in Alaska, a young man was among a herd of sea lions, an orca emerged on the ice and struck the boy. The orca had probably confused the boy with a sea lion, however the boy was only injured, the orca continued its hunt by turning its attention to other sea lions.
Unlike killer whales in the wild, those in captivity are very aggressive, carry out self-injurious behaviors and are aggressive even with humans. Accidents are not uncommon and attacks on humans number more than a dozen, some with fatal outcome.
The orca Tilikum drowned one of its trainers and seriously injured another. The same animal had been responsible for the deaths of two other trainers in previous years. Those who want to learn more can watch the documentaryBlackfishby Gabriela Cowperthwaite (2013).
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